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Now you get the chance to Lord it over everyone.

The way to become a Lord became clear yesterday as the rules of the game were laid out.

The new Lords will have an unprecedented opportunity to help frame legislation and participate in Lords debates in the do-it-yourself peerage scheme, it was claimed.

The initiative comes from the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission, established by Tony Blair last May.

But he was accused by the Opposition Leader in the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, of increasing his own power.

The Commission, chaired by crossbench peer Lord Dennis Stevenson, yesterday began to write to up to 10,000 public, private and voluntary organisations in a bid to find the 'outstanding' non-party political peers.

Launching the Commission, Lord Stevenson said: 'It marks a change in the way that non-party political members of the House of Lords are appointed.

'From this moment an open process exists. Anyone in the UK can nominate him or herself or nominate someone else.'

Applicants will need to be of a high standard to scoop one the places, although they would hold their peerage for life and be addressed as 'My Lord' or 'My Lady'.

Lord Stevenson said he was looking for people with 'integrity, independence and a significant record of achievement in their chosen field or way of life - people with the skills and experience to contribute effectively to the work of the House of Lords.'

He added that the Prime Minister will decide on the number of people's peers but that 'past precedent suggests eight to ten people'.

The proposals are part of the answer to the debate about how to reform Parliament's upper chamber following the removal of the hereditary peers.

The Commission hopes they will help invigorate the upper chamber, drawing in more members from groups such as women and ethnic minorities.

Speaking at the central London launch, Lord Stevenson added: 'We hope that by running an open and fair process we can encourage outstanding applications from groups who are under-represented in the Lords. We are determined to cast the net as widely as possible.'

But he warned that people should read the 'criteria for selection very carefully' as the Commission did not want to encourage 'unrealistic' applications.

He stressed that the selection procedure would be an 'open, transparent and fair process' and added that he envisaged candidates as someone 'who you might not think of as being on top of a very public greasy pole but has been hugely successful in their chosen field.'

The Commission, which comprises three independent members and three nominated by the main political parties, will make recommendations to the Queen on the basis of individual merit.

Lord Stevenson said that in the next few weeks, Commissioners will be holding meetings throughout the UK to brief leaders of communities on how the system will work.

Fact File

The House of Lords is the second Chamber of the UK Parliament.

It emerged as a distinct house in the 14th century, comprising religious leaders, the Lords Spiritual, and peers, the Lords Temporal.

It is intended to act as a check on the Government, scrutinising its activities.

The House of Lords also has a judicial role as the final court of appeal in the UK.

Members are unelected and unpaid.

Labour last November abolished the right of more than 600 hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House.

Appointed life peers, bishops and law lords were allowed to remain as well as 92 hereditaries who will stay until the second stage of reform is complete.

A Royal Commission, chaired by Lord Wakeham, was set up to consider the role and composition of the second chamber.

The Royal Commission report, published in January, suggested three options for composition involving both appointed and elected members.
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Author:Westcott, Sarah
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 14, 2000
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